FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A pair of MLS originals renew acquaintances on Saturday night, when the New England Revolution will host the New York Red Bulls at Gillette Stadium.
Kickoff between the Revs (1-5-1, 4 pts.) and Red Bulls (1-3-2, 5 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., with NBC Sports Boston televising the match and streaming the action live on NBCSportsBoston.com and the NBC Sports Boston app. Brad Feldman and Paul Mariner will have the call from the booth, while former Revolution forward and current club ambassador Charlie Davies will fill in for Naoko Funayama on the sidelines.
That trio will also handle English radio duties on 98.5 The Sports Hub and SiriusXM Channel 157, while Portuguese radio listeners can tune into 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA.
Pregame coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. with Revolution Pregame Live, as Elizabeth Pehota and Jeff Lemieux will break down the starting lineups and biggest storylines, streaming live on the Revolution’s official Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube channels, as well as on revolutionsoccer.net.
Postgame coverage will begin immediately after the final whistle on NBC Sports Boston, while host Rob “Hardy” Poole and former Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms will take calls for 30 minutes on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
As part of the fourth annual MLS WORKS Greener Goals Week of Service, both the Revs and Red Bulls will be celebrating Earth Day by wearing adidas x Parley kits, made from transformed ocean plastic gathered from shorelines, remote islands, and coastal communities.
Current Form: Both sides in search of a jumpstart in the season’s early-going
It’s been a frustrating start to the 2019 campaign for both the Revs and Red Bulls, who currently sit 12th and ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, respectively.
New England will be looking to turn things around in short order as they’ll play eight games in the next 29 days – seven league contests, plus the Final Whistle on Hate charity match against Chelsea FC – and despite their struggles at home, where they’ve lost three of their first four, players and coaches are focused on keeping their spirits high and their belief strong ahead of their hectic stretch.
“Just being a group and being together,” second-year pro Brandon Bye said when asked what’s key to snapping out of the current rut. “That’s what we need to be – a tight locker room, in that sense – and just get ready for the next opponent. Being together and being focused on what’s ahead, it’s what’s really important in times like this.”
Also important for the Revs will be finding their shooting boots, as they’ve scored just five goals in seven games – second-fewest in MLS – despite being amongst the league leaders in possessions in the attacking third and touches inside the opponent’s 18-yard box.
“It’s up to us as a staff to try to replicate things in training that may occur in a game,” said head coach Brad Friedel. “We are getting into advanced positions. We’ve been in advanced positions every single game, and we have to start finding the back of the net.”
The Red Bulls, meanwhile, are coming off the best regular season in MLS history (71 points), but they’ve been slow out of the gate in 2019 and will arrive in Foxborough winless in their last four games (0-3-1).
Their most recent result, however, was a valuable 2-2 draw in Kansas City, where they pressed relentlessly and were unlucky not to take the full three points after conceding a late equalizer to the hosts.
“I thought they performed very well against Kansas City,” said Friedel. “I assume they’re going to come here and have the same exact tactics – they’re going to try to high press all over the field and get in the face, and it’s important that we move the ball much quicker than we did against Atlanta when they were pressing us.”
It’s also important that the Revolution limit the influence of Bradley Wright-Phillips. The fastest player in MLS history to record 100 league goals (158 matches), Wright-Phillips has scored in six straight appearances against New England in all competitions, so the Revs will be closely monitoring his whereabouts on Saturday night.
“You’ve just got to remain switched on,” said center back Michael Mancienne, who played against BWP when both were in the English Championship. “People like that come alive in the box – “foxes in the box” as we call them in England. But you’ve got to just stay alert, be on your toes and stay concentrated at all times, because if the ball drops down to him, you know he can finish it.”
Past Meetings: Home-field advantage remains paramount in NE-NY series
The long and storied history between these two sides can be boiled down to one simple fact: home-field advantage has played a bigger role than any other factor.
While the Revs are just 8-21-8 all-time on the road against the Red Bulls, they’re a sterling 22-6-7 at home. While they’ve lost on nine of their last 10 trips to New Jersey, they’ve won four of the last five meetings in Foxborough.
Those trends held true last year, when the Revs used goals from Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury to claim a 2-1 win at Gillette Stadium, before dropping a 2-0 decision to the Red Bulls later in the season at Red Bull Arena.
There’s also history to consider when the Revs and Red Bulls square off as New England have won all four playoffs series between the teams, most recently in the 2014 Eastern Conference Championship.
“We definitely have a little bit of a rivalry and we know that it’s always a difficult matchup,” said Bunbury.
Injury Report: Mancienne returns, Castillo and Delamea pushing to get back in the mix
Mancienne will provide a boost to the Revolution’s backline on Saturday night as the captain returns from a one-game suspension, but the Revs are hopeful that there will be more defensive reinforcements returning, as well.
Edgar Castillo (calf) and Antonio Delamea (knee) have both missed the past two games, but both have been removed from the injury report after resuming training this week, leaving open the possibility that the duo could be available to return against the Red Bulls.
“We had to obviously make a lot of changes (against Atlanta), and a lot of them were to the backline,” Friedel said. “Hopefully we can be a little bit more stable. We’ll just see how the days roll by this week.”
Attacking reinforcements have also arrived in the form of forward Brian Wright, recalled from his loan to Birmingham Legion FC (USL Championship) after registering one goal and one assist in three appearances.
The Red Bulls will be without one of their most influential attacking pieces as Kaku will be suspended after being sent off in the late stages of last weekend’s draw in Kansas City.
Final Thoughts: Bunbury says Revs “getting back to basics” ahead of RBNY challenge
“I think for us it’s about getting back to basics,” said Bunbury. “We talk a lot, I think, in the locker room and on the training field, but it’s just about sticking together and continuing to compete, and trying to get better.
“I know a lot of people might hear that and think, ‘Okay, we’ve been doing the same thing over and over.’ But that’s all we can control is really going on the field, trying to take things in from coach, and trying to stick together as a group and continue to just get better.”